AmeriStar Rail: More Service on the NEC, Rail Plans for LaGuardia

As we learned at our November, meeting, there could be a lot more trains on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) with AmeriStar Rail’s operating plan (www.ameristarrail.com/impact). Chief Operating Officer Scott R. Spencer presented that plan to us, saying that the NEC is currently underutilized. The restructured plan for intercity trains would not affect NJ Transit (including Morris & Essex and Montclair) trains using all or part of the railroad from Trenton to Penn Station, New York.

The proposed plan calls for moving terminal operations from Washington, D.C. to
Alexandria, Virginia, improving efficiency by making Washington Union Station a through station and adding service in Virginia. There would also be hourly service to Boston and
from south of New York to Ronkonkoma on the Long Island Rail Road, as well as between
Albany and Ronkonkoma through Penn Station and between Harrisburg and Springfield, Massachusetts. The ASR plan would have service every 2 hours from Richmond through Washington, D.C. and Center City Philadelphia (which the current route bypasses) to Hoboken, currently an underutilized terminal. There they could connect to the majority of NJ Transit lines, including the M&E and Montclair lines and Main/Bergen and Pascack Valley lines that cannot currently connect to Amtrak in Newark.

The plan is intended to improve mobility; Spencer said that trains would be much more equitable if every train had all three classes of service, rather than separate first-class Acela trains, which have no coaches. The ASR website says: “The 160 MPH top-speed trains include triple-class service for coach, business and first class passengers on every Amtrak NEC train. For the first time, all passengers including senior citizens, students, families, disabled and low-income passengers will have affordable, equal access to high speed rail service in America which is funded by all taxpayers.”

Now, AmeriStar Rail has turned its attention to Gov. Hochul’s October request that PANYNJ review alternative options for rail service to LaGuardia Airport. The original Air-Train proposal included a People Mover to connect between New York City Transit Services and Long Island Rail Road at Mets-Willets Point. Critics considered this too expensive, also questioning the estimated traffic reductions.

According to a Dec. 21 report in MassTransit magazine, AmeriStarRail has written to Gov. Hochul to present their proposal, noting in its letter that it is the result of “significant time, effort and resources.” The Lackawanna Coalition looks forward to hearing more details at our meeting on Jan. 24, and invites Railgram readers to join us virtually (registration link: https://bit.ly/2P9O1TE). There is also limited in-person seating; write to info@lackawannacoalition.org.

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